Slice of Life: 5 steps to being gay


It’s tough being a gay man. The complex coming out process, the ensuing battles for equaliy and the yearning to be fully accepted by society. And, if this isn’t enough to worry about, something I came across the other night added to the burden we gays carry with us in Hong Kong.

I received a condom handed to me by a neighbourhood volunteer who came by the gay bar I was in. Great, I thought – free condom! But then, on inspecting the package design, I noticed the ‘message’ here was a troubling depiction of a gay man’s daily life, which was broken down into five easy ‘steps’…

Step 1 – Weightlifting/gym
Step 2 – Facebook
Step 3 – Tan
Step 4 – Hook up with a cute guy
Step 5 – HIV Test

Talk about stereotypes. And it’s not a healthy stereotype that this condom was perpetuating either. This hypothetical guy is some sort of social networking vanity whore who really should get his shit checked out once in a while due to his promiscuous sex life.

So then I started to consider the stereotype of the gay man. I wondered if this is how gays see themselves – and if this is how the gay community is seen by society. Do people really see us as having this vapid existence, where homosexuals live simply for the purpose of looking good and hooking up?

If so, it’s a bad stereotype that we, as gay people, need to wash off. However – I then looked at myself and realised something curious. I see myself as conforming, in many ways, to this stereotype. Like any good gay, I go to the gym because it’s important to look good and sexy. The result of this has been a disproportionate amount of gay men who hit our city’s gyms. A friend once told me ‘no pecs, no sex’ – and if you ever go on a gay dating app, most guys specify they want a man who’s fit and muscular. Who wants chuck meat if they can get prime rib, right?

The next step is obvious. Why put in all the hard work if you can’t show it off and attract a few guys? So thank you to Facebook for allowing heaps of gays the opportunity to show half-naked photos of themselves. And then, to show off those muscle lines, one has got to tan, which is why the tanning deck at the Kowloon Park Swimming Pool on a sunny weekend is filled with 98 percent gay men.

Then it’s off to hook up and, of course, HIV testing is a must before you press the reset button and go through this cycle all over again.

Straight guys have it easy by comparison. In their world the media shows that even the schlumpiest of men can land a girl without jumping through the same hurdles that gay men do. We have to sift and see if the man of interest is also gay before making a move. Then there’s the issue of who’s the top and who’s the bottom before even going into ‘that conversation’ about HIV status.

The condom is a symbol and reminder that being gay has a lot to do with sexuality and sex. The trick is trying to find out how much of that force should dictate one’s individuality. I’m sure there are many gay men who don’t fit the ‘five steps’ mould – but, for those who do, let’s have our lives mean more than this. Surely we’ve all got so much more to shout about. Arthur Tam


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